Marketing & Commercialization

During the 1880s, American magazines and newspapers took quick advantage of the new Crazy patchwork fad to maintain readers’ interest. Harper’s Bazar (now Harper's Bazaar) printed embroidery designs from London's Royal School of Art Needlework and the New York Decorative Art Society. The magazine described its high-minded purpose to cooperate … “with these admirable societies in their praiseworthy endeavors to disseminate and popularize a knowledge of the true principles of household art.”1

Manufacturers used American periodicals to advertise new products for the artistic Crazy patchwork fad. With improved postal services and an expanded and better transportation network, mail order supplies were accessible to all. Numerous companies in New York and Connecticut—the location of much silk manufacture and distribution in the United States—advertised silk, satin, and brocade pieces for Crazy patchwork and “waste” embroidery floss by the ounce. Advertisements appeared for leaflets of embroidery stitches and block designs. For customers’ convenience, some manufacturers offered perforated embroidery patterns for dry or wet stamping onto cloth. Others offered kits of pre-stamped designs on silk such as sprays of flowers and “Japanese Fans for quilts and lambrequins.”2

American consumers could purchase pre-embroidered “silk ornaments” (ready-made patches) easily applied to fabric by moistening the back and pressing with a hot iron.3 Americans' practice of using pre-embroidered ornaments, published embroidery patterns, and bundles of silk scraps may explain, as described by the Metropolitan Museum of Art, “the strangely uniform quality of many crazy quilts, and makes those crazy quilts that are not formulaic seem all the more extraordinary.”

To date, no evidence following a similar commercial pattern has been found in British periodicals, though packets or bundles of silk suitable for patchwork were advertised for sale in ladies' magazines. Mentions of patchwork were far less frequent, appearing in the Work-Table section of such magazines as The Queen (formerly The Lady's Newspaper) or The Englishwoman’s Domestic Magazine. General articles on patchwork mainly cover mosaic and geometric patchwork over papers and include the technique for Crazy work from the 1880s. British Crazy quilts, in contrast to American examples, are generally less uniform in appearance, possibly due the absence of commercially manufactured products for Crazy patchwork in the United Kingdom.

1Harper’s Bazar, June 18, 1881, pp. 14, 25

2Harper’s Bazar, Feb 16, 1884; May 24, 1884

3Harper’s Bazar, Jan 29, 1881